Sci Fi nixes ‘Farscape’ skein

Channel cites declining viewership, heavy costs

The Sci Fi Channel has cancelled Jim Henson TV’s “Farscape,” which had begun slipping in the ratings in its fourth season after racking up consistently solid ratings from March 1999 through the end of 2001.

Sci Fi cited declining viewership and “the extreme and growing cost of production” for its decision to kill “Farscape.”

But Juliet Blake, president of Jim Henson TV, U.S., said “Farscape,” shot in Australia, cost only about $1.5 million an episode, which is at least $500,000 an hour less than the production cost of the UPN primetime sci-fi series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Enterprise.”

And the cost to Sci Fi, which pays about half of the production cost in license fees, went up, Blake continued, mainly because it ordered more runs of each “Farscape” episode.

Sci Fi still has a number of unaired hours of the series, which it will play off at 10 p.m. Friday from January to March 2003. The show had originally run earlier in the evening, and Blake said the 10-p.m. slot cost “Farscape” some of its younger viewers.

A summer Nielsen report conceived by Turner Research showed that “Farscape” had fallen to only a 1.2 rating in cable homes, or 958,000 households, from May 27 to Aug. 18. By contrast, “Stargate: SG-1,” the Friday-at-8 original series on Sci Fi, averaged a 1.7 rating for the same period, or 1.32-million homes.

The Henson Co. is working on the script of a “Farscape” theatrical movie, and one of the series creators, Rockne O’Bannon, is writing an anime version.

Henson produced 88 episodes of “Farscape” for Sci Fi before getting the pinkslip.

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